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ATTIKA

Reviewed by K-ban

ATTIKA (Hans im Glück/Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up; about 60 minutes; $32.95)

 

Marcel-Andre’ Casasola Merkle is best known for authoring unique card games for German publisher Adlung. His 2 best Adlung designs, Verrater (see our Flashback this issue) and Meuterer, made novel use of a single deck of cards, as both played more like a board game costing several times as much and provided a significant amount of gaming substance, both in game play Picture of ‘Attika’and introducing new mechanics (that were since borrowed liberally by Bruno Faidutti in Citadels GAR Summer 2000), Attika is a departure for the author as it is, indeed, a full fledged board game.

In Attika, players are trying to economically build their own city-states on the Greek peninsula. Each player receives an identical set of thirty 1-inch round disks representing buildings in their own color along with a matching colored play mat that diagrams the buildings and their relationships.. Each building disk shows the name of the building and the cost, in resources, required for construction. Buildings each belong to one of seven groups – Defense, Shipping, City, Supply, Mint, Vineyard or Roads. If a player constructs his building in the prescribed order indicated on the play mat there is NO COST. There are 22 game board tiles, each consisting of 7 hexes and indicating a different combination of resources for each. Players pay for the construction of building disks with their resource cards. The cost for erecting a building gets reduced by the resources produced on or adjacent to the construction site.attika1

Players start by sorting their 30 disks into 4 stacks – the 6 main buildings (black print) in one, the remaining 24 (white print) other buildings in 3 stacks of eight disks each. The top disk from each stack is revealed and placed on the appropriate place on the player mat. Players also receive a variable number of resource cards (water, bricks, trees, ore) depending on their starting order. The development of the peninsula is started by randomly drawing and arranging twice the number of game board tiles as the number of participants. Three-dimensional shrines (matching the # of players) are placed equidistantly on the board.

A player achieves victory in Attika either by connecting any 2 shrines with building disks of their color or by placing all 30 of their disks on the game board. On a player’s turn he can either decide to take 2 DRAW actions or 3 BUILD actions. If the DRAW option is chosen, the player twice draws a disk from the top of one of his building stacks and either places it on his player mat or immediately pays the building cost (reduced by resources already on or adjacent to the site) and places it on the game board. In lieu of drawing a disk, a player can take a card from the resource deck and add it to his hand. Drawing cards must be a player’s last action. If a player chooses the BUILD option, he takes a building of his choice from his mat, pays the building cost in resources and places the disk on the game board. This action can be taken up to 3 times. A player can draw as many resource cards as the number of build actions he decides to forego. If a player is missing a key resource card, he can substitute any 2 cards instead.

A chain of connected buildings on the board is considered a ‘settlement’. The normal cost of construction is increased by one additional resource card for each new settlement a player places on the board. Cutting off a rival player from connecting his settlements can be dastardly as it slows your opponents by burning resource cards. Since construction can require 2 to 5 resource cards, it is in each player’s best interest to be patient and construct their buildings by group and in the order indicated on their mat. When a player finishes constructing a group of buildings, a reward of an amphora, redeemable on any future turn for a free action (a single DRAW or BUILD) is earned. When a player exhausts one of his 4 stacks of disks, he immediately places a new game board tile onto the board at the location and orientation of his choice.

As the game progresses the board can become quite congested, especially if all play defensively – guarding against a quick shrine connection win. Players want to both DRAW and BUILD every turn, but can only do one on a given turn, resulting in strategic tension at its finest.

Attika, at times, feels like group solitaire, as players are managing their own development. There is ample opportunity, however, to hinder the best laid plans of opponents by hemming them in or isolating their settlements, making future building more costly (both in resources and time). Once players play defensively, there are likely few cheap connection victories. It is this interaction, sorely missing in Klaus Teuber’s Anno 1503 (see RED FLAGS section of this issue), that makes Attika a cut above other resource management/planning games. Getting all 30 disks down is an exercise in logistical planning that rewards efficiency and feels strangely satisfying.

Attika takes about 10 minutes to teach and about an hour to play – a length conducive to repeat play for a mid-weight game. The graphics, by the author’s (brother?, uncle?, nephew?, lover?), are superbly done and add to the gaming ambience. As the amount of tiles grow, the tapestry of colored disks is visually appealing. Attika is one of the best releases to come out of the 2003 Essen Game Fair and should be a solid contender for a German Game of the Year nomination. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – -K-ban


 

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Winter 2004 GA Report Articles

 

Reviewed by K-ban ATTIKA (Hans im Glück/Rio Grande Games, 2-4 players, ages 10 and up; about 60 minutes; $32.95) Marcel-Andre’ Casasola Merkle is best known for authoring unique card games for German publisher Adlung. His 2 best Adlung designs, Verrater (see our Flashback this issue) and Meuterer, made novel use of a single deck of cards, as both played more like a board game costing ...
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